DNA tests to fish out seafood fraud in Halifax

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Oceana Canada, an ocean research charity, is hoping citizen scientists in Halifax armed with DNA kits will help them sniff out seafood fraud.

The group estimates as much as 40 per cent of seafood sold in Canada is mislabelled.

"This information helps raise the public awareness and helps us take the information and the support to government to lobby and advocate for change in the regulations … to make sure that people can be confident the seafood they're getting is the seafood they're buying," Joshua Laughren, the executive director of Oceana Canada, told CBC Radio's Mainstreet.

Testing Halifax fish

Laughren said after testing in Ottawa last year, it found almost half of the fish samples were incorrectly labelled or fraudulent.

Testing has also been conducted in Vancouver and Toronto, but the results haven't come in yet. Oceana Canada is in the midst of testing fish in Halifax.

Laughren said people can help test fish in Halifax by going to Oceana Canada's website and registering for a testing kit.

"You go to a restaurant or grocery store, find the sample, make sure you record what it says it is … and you take a tiny little sample, put it in the kit, put it in the drying agent and mail it off," said Laughren.

"It's nice and simple and easy and then we take those to a lab and get it properly tested and then we summarize all the results."

Expensive fish more at risk

The organization will give some direction on the types of fish it's looking for. It won't name the restaurants and stores involved, but it would show "the level of misrepresentation."

Laughren said he's hoping to get 100 volunteers in Halifax to help with the project. He said Oceana will be getting 100 samples on its own.

"We know that some species are at a much higher risk than others — usually the expensive ones.

"Tilapia is usually tilapia because it's cheap. And you've got things like halibut and swordfish, snapper — these are things that are often not what they're labelled to be."

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